Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Biodiversity - The Inverse Main Point

The blogosphere is full of much talk of environmental issues.

GW (or global warming) seems to take the cake for popularity. The fear factor and much media hype are partly responsible for the focus on GW even though one admits that the overall concern may be a very valid one.

But, for the biosphere, what are the real issues and environmental concerns?

If I had to pick the one greatest concern it would be the growth of
bioinversity / the loss of biodiversity.

I prefer the previous term as more descriptive of what is actually happening - species of all sorts are disappearing once and for all.
It is frightening. Bioinversity means that ecosystems will die, for
the interdependencies are huge.
We won't notice the changes
overnight but our children,
and theirs in turn, will curse us as
the blindest of fools!



Jonathan Erdman said...


Do you really think there is all that much that we can do about it? I mean, I guess our kids' kids might call us fools, but only if there was something we could do. I mean, when you talk about the main spokes people for global warming in the west you're talking about guys like Al Gore and Leo Dicaprio. These are spoiled hollywood types who consume more energy in a month than my whole block does in a year. I almost want to use more energy and pollute the planet just to stick it in the faces of these holier-than-thou advocates...not really, but you do see the hypocrisy, right?

Unknown said...

Jon, thanks for visiting. I wholeheartedly agree - it's politics and also quite a bit of misplaced guilt.

Still what encourages me is our youth. A number of young people respond wonderfully to saving biodiversity and that is what counts. It is very sad that the older folks are desensitised or have given up, still Go Youth!

Anonymous said...

I may be at loggerheads, but I have to say this. May be we are the "species" who are meant to put an end to this "series". Maybe a new order will emerge. Afterall five billion years is quite adequate for permutations and combinations. It looks like there is some inevitability in play. Probably "ecotourism" in the superficial and "GM" and (in a way stem cell manipulations) in the more deep zones will do the exact opposite of what they started out to do and challenge sam's first rule of leaving nature alone. I sort of subscribe to the theory that there were a series of starts and stops before we emerged. So, in all probability, we have been "chosen" to end the era. Is there anyway to stop atrophy and death?

Anonymous said...

Also, nature might (WILL) still find a way.

Unknown said...

Paru, Atrophy and death are a part and parcel of life. Biodiversity is on the decline and perhaps that is inevitable. The previous starts and stops happened in less drastic ways and in ways that allowed nature time to rebuild. In fact disasters for life as a whole probably also stimulated new waves of biodiversity in the long run.

What we are witnessing today is a rapid and permanent loss of species that will be replaced with species that thrive on pollution, need less water and like high temperatures. I can see aworld of rats, ants and cockroaches coming. Parhaps there will again be a resurgence, but at the pace at which man makes and breaks, it seems that no ecosystems will be stable enough to allow for real speciation to again take place, except for the urban ecosystems that we will be creating.

Then again, we may annihilate ourselves in the next thousand years or less and nature will be back on top...after a suitable interval.

Anonymous said...

Sam you said it. The moment man stopped being nomadic and started "selectively" cultivating and "settling" down, he had brought in unwittingly an inevitable progress down a narrow lane scuttling biodiversity. The degradation progresses slowly or in leaps and bounds accoding to the level of sophistication of the tools he handles. That is where the inevitability or the eventuality comes in. The atrophy and death I am talking about is not about a particular species, it is more collective. A whole system, be it social, political or ecological moves towards atrophy and death, depite the best efforts to wind back. And without such atrophy and death, nothing absolutely 'new' can happen.

Moreover, do we really understand or is it even possible to take into account the dynamic parameters (of change) of nature. Before we destroy natue, nature may destroy us!!

When new species occur or the current species evolve further as a result of their adaptation, like you say, to pollution, heat etc, would you call it a degradation (simply because "we" were replaced by "them") or an advancement? It simply depends on which side you are on, on the rat's side or the man's. Remember we are also a species in this ecosystem. So we make the ecosystem which evolves towards atrophy anyway. I am not really talking 'fatality' here. My argument is oriented more towards acceptance than irresposibility. So what do you think?

Unknown said...

I agree that we are not in anything like complete control of where nature is going and I also agree that nature will no doubt survive us in one way or another.

What is concerning to me is that we are unthinkingly doing things that have unpredictable and even catastrophic implications and it is not as though we are incapable of being better stewards of our own potential and the potential of nature.

For whatever reason, we are both sentient and clever but we have been unable as a whole to channelise our potentialities and instead end up destroying billions of years of fine tuneing of ecosystems practically overnight and without a backward glance at the devastation that we have caused. At least if not for self preservation, out of respect for the right of other organisms to exist, we should change both our ethic and our praxis.

I do believe that if enough of our youth take heed, the next gen certainly can do much better!

Anonymous said...

I very much agree with most of what you say, except "the fine tuning" part. I doubt if anything was ever fine tuned. If it were, it would be quite static. And it is not in the nature of NATURE to be static.

Looking around, I don't see as much hope in the youth as you do. All are very much in the same bandwagon of wanting to be in the know but do nothing. To take the smallest example, tell me if one youngster is willing to walk the shortest distance without riding a bike, the worst destroyer of our delicate atmosphere. If somebody did, it is only because citibank hasnt contacted them yet. For every Gore and Capriati, there are 100 irresponsible people out there. If the two pollute with 10 vehicles apiece, the other hundered pollute with their one each. I dont find much difference, and I dont want to call them particularly hypocritical. Action, like charity, should begin (very concientiously) at home.

Generally, one's faith and way of life, knowledge and action, concern and philanthropy remain quite divorced. I dont think there is much hope. So I am taking quite a cynical stand, in self-defence.

I say all this all the time feeling the deep sadness, the suppressed agitation and helplessness you feel about the callouness of fellow homosapiens. We dont deserve this earth. We are the most unworthy inheriters. Probably, like Koestler says, something went terribly wrong when our neocortex was forming. So after all nature is to be blamed for her own degradation.

Unknown said...

Well, I guess you need to get more in touch with kids who will make the effort. I'm preaching now, but living in a big city, in that ratrace, can be disillusioning. I know that there are thousands of youth in Chennai who go birding in the wet season hols and who are involved in stuff like beach cleaning and whatnot.

I really think that many homes are lacking the time, energy or the parents never had the inclination to grow an appreciation of nature in their kids, so many kids are just not exposed. Even our schooling system is so nastily introverted in focus that its a wonder that so many kids do have a concern for nature at all.

Just letting one or two of these youth be friends with folks like you will be a blessing to them and will help to get them moving in the right direction.

Why not start blogging. You would be amazed at how many kids jst drop in and take a peek while cruising the net. Besides, you'd be a natural, an original thinker who can communicate well!

Like life itself, I'm not gonna say die till I'm well and truly dead!

Anonymous said...

Sam, I am not gonna say die either, but something surely is dead in me. I no more have the energy of enthusisam.

'respect for the right of other organisms to exist'. So how do you justify medicine, then? Pathogen is a term which is wholly from the point of view of man. Sometimes the stand certain sects (like the adventists and the Jehova's Witness) take seem quite logical to me. Just because the virus is seen only with a powerful microscope, its right to exist is next to nothing? Why are we battling with it on a pretty uneven ground? For the battle to be fair and square, we should fight only with our own much evolved arsenal and not borrow from outside?

Unknown said...

yes, it's idiotic but I don't like using antibiotica nor killing spiders (or even knocking off their webs) nor spraying insecticide. I guess I'm really one of the eccentric ones...

Still, when I got typhoid I did dose myself up for the full course so I'm not that altruistic after all!

Anonymous said...

hmm, you are not the only eccentric, I dont use insecticides either. Babs too was much against killing cockroaches at home. He always said they had a right to exist. But what about the lowly mosquito?

But medicines, I really hope I am not tested much.

As long as the gene is selfish, it is pretty much impossible for anyone to be truly altruistic?

Unknown said...

Altruism is one of those mysteries that Dawkins can't really explain, so there's something missing still in the theory of evolution, coz altruism is not only (occasionally) a human trait! But I'm not really being altruistic in promoting the preservation of nature, quite selfish actually!

Anonymous said...

Precisely Sam, that's what I meant. Though I borrowed his line, I meant more than that. When I mentioned 'gene', I meant it as a whole 'entity', not of the human variety alone. Altruism in the most sublime form is pure selfishness, anyway. I mean when the mitochondria was allowed to be part of the cell, the assimilation was not entirely altruistic. If a thoughtless creature can do that, it is no wonder a thinking creature can camouflage selfishness with altruism. But the most unselfish selfishness is quite pardonable. So carry on.

Unknown said...

If altruism is being more selfish for others than for self then we are sailing in the same boat.

Anonymous said...

Sam did you read the article about Oregon's principles and experiments with land use. It has come in The Hindu of 22/7 (page 16 "What India can learn from Oregon" by Tathagata Chatterji). Quite sensible and looks like they are largely successful.

Unknown said...

India has a very long way to go as far as completely making democracy and human rights realities. Still, one is amazed at how functional society actually is! The Nandigram issue and SEZ (economic zones) are a case in point. The government has a right to enforce its will though thankfully it seldom enforces very unpopular decisions. In this case as is common with much Jamindari mentality, money has talked louder than good sense, yet when the people rise up and when the issue becomes a hot potato, without acknowledging that it has backed down, the government has in fact done so - so, our democracy can be made to work!


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